Review: Claus the Musical at The Lowry is lively and meaningful

This is a unique retelling of the ‘origin’ of Santa Claus which will definitely get audiences feeling festive
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Claus the Musical has sleighed its way to The Lowry, Salford. Snuggle up in the Quays Theatre this festive season and get in the Christmas spirit with this lively production.

Based off of the 1902 children’s book The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum, Claus the Musical has been adapted by Simon Warne with music and lyrics by Andy Collyer to bring this light-hearted tale to life. Director Kate Golledge manages a very busy stage that features props, puppeteering, and projections.

The story is kept moving by the Narrator (Alwyne Taylor) and the opening of the show introduces us to the immortal creatures of the forest, the queen of the Fairies (Corrine Priest), the leader of the Knooks (Chris Draper), the Queen Zurline (Mari McGinlay) and Necile (Georgie Buckland) with loyal lion companion, Shiegra (Jessica Lim).

A human baby is randomly and unquestioningly found within the forest boundaries, and Necile believes adopting this child as her own will fill the hole in her heart. Then, the master of the forest, Ak, (Junior Delius) arrives and makes the exception to allow for a human to be raised within the forest. This baby is Claus (Later portrayed by Harry Winchester.)

We watch him grow from a childish boy, into a young adult who wishes to escape the confines of the forest and help people of his kind – humans. Claus fills his time whittling toys for the children of the village and gifts them to the good girls and boys. However, nothing is as easy as it seems with King Awgwa (Jazz Evans) lurking in the shadows…

As indicated by the title, Claus the Musical is jam-packed full of original musical numbers, such as A Star on a Christmas NightJourney to the World, and Only if You’re Good. Every member of the cast gets involved with the singing, and the voices of Zurline, Necile, and Claus particularly stand out. The actors share a lot of chemistry on stage, but perhaps are ill-rehearsed in some parts of the play. This isn’t necessarily a problem or distraction from the plot, it just looks a little messy from the audience’s perspective.

This is a fourteen-person cast, which means that most of the actors take on multiple roles throughout the production. This allows for a huge display of talent, and the cast can really show off their range, however, the costumes for the changes to character could do with more distinguishable differentiation as it is confusing as to what part is being embodied at what time.

There is a unique use of lighting employed, where torches with a yellowy-green lens are lit and used to project shadows and silhouettes through sheets to develop the narrative and move the story along. The stage at times gets very busy with rope, ribbon, sheets, and scarves, so much so that at times it seems that the show is still in the early, initial brainstorming stage, trying to use lots of ideas at once, but really it could use some refinement.

Overall, this is a unique retelling of the ‘origin’ of Santa Claus which will definitely get audiences feeling festive. It’s a meaningful story which reinforces the importance of kindness and generosity over physical, and material gifts and reiterates how strong a mother’s love is.

Though wonderfully suitable for younger audiences, older members of the crowd may find the themes a bit repetitive and tedious. Claus the Musical seems reminiscent of The Jungle Book with its ambiguous forest setting and non-human family that raise and support the lead, the sole human character, and the similarity seems so apparent because Claus is rushed, jumping on quickly from one plot point to the next with no time to really build on what is happening or develop its own story.

Tickets for Claus the Musical at The Lowry

Claus the Musical is being performed at The Lowry until Sunday 8th January 2023 with an audio-described performance scheduled for Sunday 18th December and a BSL-interpreted show on Friday 6th January.

Tickets start at £25.50, tickets and extra information can be found here.

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